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***Spoiler Alert***

Okay, so it’s not Steampunk, but Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland has generated quite the buzz, not to mention the Disney Chanel is pimping the movie hard. Because there’s such a comprehensive add campaign (at least where I live), the tot really wanted to see it. Despite all the coverage on the Disney Channel and checking out parent-targeted review sites, I still had my reservations about the movie–after all, it was directed by Tim Burton (caveat, I love Tim Burton movies, but the tot *is* only five).

So, I took the tot to see it on Friday after school (non-3D, at her request), fully prepared to leave the theater if it was too scary (I also warned her ahead of time that there would be scary monsters)…

I was pleasantly surprised. The movie was so much more family-friendly then I ever expected. But I was also very entertained by the movie as was the tot (no potty breaks, when you have a five year old, this equates to a five-star rating). She did hang on to me through a few scenes, but nothing out of the ordinary. I think she got annoyed that I kept asking if she was okay.

This version is more of a sequel than a retelling. Here Alice is nineteen and thinks what happened before was all a dream. She goes to a party with her mother only to find out it’s really her engagement party and everyone pressures (and expects) her to just accept the marriage proposal and be happy. She starts seeing a rabbit in a waistcoat and when the proposal happens, she’s just not sure she can go through with it, runs out of the garden, follows the rabbit, and falls down the rabbit hole and the real adventure begins…

As advertised, Alice is a feast of sights and colors. The mundane world is shown in pallid tones, while Wonderland is lush, vibrant, and a bit wild. Color is used to set characters apart–like the Red Queen versus the White Queen. The costumes are amazing–especially Alice’s. My favorite was the one she wore as “Um” in the Red Queen’s palace. But the Mad Hatter’s hat was also something. The acting was amazing, especially the Red Queen and Alice, but the Mad Hatter had some funny bits, too.

They really did a good job of making this movie adventurous, magical, and fresh, as well as enjoyable, but still appropriate for kids. Quite a bit of the movie is computer generated which adds to the fantastical feel of the story–it also takes the edge off the scary scenes and creatures. Even the scene with Alice and the Jabberwocky feels a bit like the scene in Sleeping Beauty where Prince Phillip slays Maleficent. But it’s not a bad thing at all–especially when bringing young children. There is a scary scene where the Red Queen tries to behead the mad Hatter, but it ends happily thanks to the Cheshire cat.

I also thought the story itself was superb. Someone did their research and made it feel as if it were simply the next Alice book. There were plenty of tie-ins to the original story, including reappearances by all the usual suspects. My favorite references include a comment at the garden party about the gardeners planting the wrong roses, the ever present “why is a raven like a writing desk” riddle (for which, i believe, there is no actual answer), and the Mad Hatter reciting the Jabberwocky poem with a Scottish brogue.

An added bonus (especially from the mom perspective) was the theme about finding your own place in the world and making your own path–even if other people are trying to steer you differently. At one point in time the Mad Hatter tells Alice that she “used to be much muchier. You have lost your muchness.” Alice does indeed try to find her “muchness” in the movie. In Wonderland everyone expects her to be the White Queen’s champion and at one point in time Alice says that she’s sick of being told what to do and from now on will make her own path. Even her constant size-changing could serve as a metaphor for Alice trying to figure out where she fits. In the end, she returns to the garden party, the would-be suitor waiting, and taking what she learned about herself in Wonderland, refuses to accept the path laid out for her and goes on to forge her own.

If you’re looking for a trippy adult movie, you might be disappointed, but if you’re looking for some visually-stunning family fare, you’ve come to the right place. Just use your own judgment with very young children since some things can be a little scary at times.

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Today we have a visiting lolita.  Lolita Kristen has a movie review for us on the recent release Sherlock Holmes.

Movie Review– Sherlock Holmes
by Kristen Roach

Sherlock Holmes always was a little before his time. He was an amateur detective before Miss Marple, a forensic expert before Gil Grissom, a criminal profiler before Fox Mulder and a violin-playing, pipe-smoking, cocaine-shooting eccentric before…well…actually, there is no comparison there. Holmes was one of a kind. So devotees of the character can breathe a little easier knowing that as the new incarnation of Holmes, Robert Downey Jr. more than lives up to the legacy…minus the cocaine. He (with a little help from a very handsome Dr. Watson) manages to put just the right amount of the 21st century into the 19th.

This Holmes is a rock star, make no mistake. He has all the delightful arrogance of a man who has become accustomed to always being right in the end. He lives a much rougher lifestyle than his literary counterpart: he drinks heavily, he dabbles in experimental medicines and he boxes men twice his size. Although he holds great regard for human life in general, he thinks nothing of taking risks not only with his own life, but with the lives of those who happen to be around him. Holmes tries the patience of everyone he knows with his antics, none more so than his long suffering best friend and partner in crime-solving, Dr. John Watson.

In this incarnation, Watson is not the shadow of Holmes, but his conscience, constantly trying to turn Holmes into a better man while still struggling to do the same for himself. He is a gambler who fights the urge to play. He is a bachelor who has decided to settle down with a good woman. And he is a reluctant adventurer, a man for whom it is as impossible to turn away from a mystery as it is to say ‘no’ to any of Holmes’ machinations.

Together, this mismatched pair has solved many great, impossible crimes for Scotland Yard, including the case of several pseudo-Satanic ritual sacrifices of young women that appears to be closed at the beginning of the film. But now Watson has decided to get married and move out of the 221B Baker Street flat that he and Holmes have shared…and not only isn’t Holmes happy about it, he’s going to do everything in his power to change his old friend’s mind.

Watson’s attempt to start a new life with his fiancée is really thwarted, however, by the resurrection of Lord Blackwood, an upper-crust villain with an arsenal of parlor tricks and a handful of Masonic-esque gentlemen minions who believe he will help them take over England and reclaim America. At first, it seems as if Holmes and Watson may be in unfamiliar territory. Black magic? Supernatural powers? Secret societies? Are they solving a mystery or investigating an X-file?

But just when it seems as though the writers have gone too far into the paranormal, Holmes explains it all with science, stripping away Blackwood’s mystique and exposing him for the fraud that he is. Of course, there are a few bumps along the way.

The biggest of these is–surprise, surprise–a beautiful woman. Rachel McAdams plays Irene Adler, a con-woman extraordinaire and a one-time paramour of Holmes who comes to him on the pretense of hiring Holmes to find a missing person, but in reality is being used as the puppet of a shadowed figure who wants to find out as much about Holmes as possible. The man’s identity is not revealed until the end of the movie, and although some of the audience may have guessed it early on, it’s a pleasant surprise for viewers who aren’t as familiar with the Sherlock Holmes mythology.

Does Holmes solve the mystery, capture the bad guy and save the Crown? Of course. He’s Sherlock Holmes. The more interesting problems, however, are personal and not so easily dismissed. Can he set aside his own fear of change and fear of loneliness long enough to let his best friend find happiness with a good woman? Will he ever get the upper-hand over the one woman who’s ever held his interest…and would we even want him to? And although he recognizes the underlying threat posed by Irene Adler’s shadowed employer, will he be able to overcome his own hubris in time to recognize that Professor Moriarty will be his greatest adversary and traditionally the man who brings about his death? It’s those questions that fuel the movie and will most likely propel the planned sequel.

But is this film an example of steampunk? In truth, there are only a few elements that could honestly be classified as steampunk-ish. Blackwood’s weapon of mass destruction, for example, and perhaps some of Holmes’s experimental toys. But overall, while some the costumes and hair styles might be a bit too slick and modern for the time period, the movie is definitely grounded in the Victorian age with most of its conventions and limitations.

Sherlock Holmes is a fun romp through history, a well-acted, well-directed and well-produced mystery-adventure-comedy that gives a fresh face to a beloved fictional character. This Lolita says that Holmes and Watson can inspect her gears anytime!

Thank you so much for visiting us, Kristen. What did everyone else think? Did you like it? Did you think it was Steampunk?  How did it compare to previous versions?

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